North Korea warns of strikes, accuses US of declaring war

Pyongyang reserves right to shoot down US bombers outside its airspace: Minister

North Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho speaking during the General Debate of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, on Sept 23, 2017.
North Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho speaking during the General Debate of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, on Sept 23, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON • North Korea's Foreign Minister said yesterday US President Donald Trump had declared war on his country and that Pyongyang reserves the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down US strategic bombers even if they are not in North Korea's airspace.

"The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country," Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York. "Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer," Mr Ri said.

"Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country," he said. "The question of who will be around much longer will be answered then."

Mr Ri, who made the remarks before leaving New York, where he had attended last week's United Nations General Assembly, made the statement, then returned from his car to the press microphones to add: "In the light of the declaration of war by Trump, all options will be on the operations table of the supreme leadership of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)."

His words echoed warnings from the Trump administration that all options were on the table in dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile development.

Shortly after Mr Ri made the remarks, the Pentagon said that it would provide Mr Trump with options to deal with North Korea if its provocations continue.

"If North Korea does not stop its provocative actions, we will make sure that we provide options to the President to deal with North Korea," Pentagon spokesman Robert Manning told reporters.

On Saturday, Mr Ri told the UN General Assembly that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after "Mr Evil President" Trump called Pyongyang's leader Kim Jong Un a "rocket man" on a suicide mission.

"Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!" Mr Trump said on Twitter late on Saturday.

US stocks fell sharply in late morning trading yesterday after Mr Ri's statement, with a sell-off in technology stocks accelerating.

The five tech giants - Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet - were down between 1.05 per cent and 3.7 per cent, weighing on the three major indexes.

The S&P technology index slid 1.37 per cent, on track for its worst single-day percentage loss since Aug 17, at press time.

The S&P 500 index SPX was down by about 8 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,494, with six of the main 11 sectors trading lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 80 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 22,269, while the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 0.9 per cent at press time.

Heightened expectations of another interest rate hike this year following comments from a Federal Reserve official also added to the downbeat sentiment. US Treasury yields declined to session lows on safe-haven demand.

Analysts say that the escalation in rhetoric is increasing the risk of a miscalculation by one side or the other, which could have massive repercussions.

China yesterday called for all sides in the North Korea missile crisis to show restraint. All sides should "not further irritate each other and add oil to the flames of the tense situation on the peninsula at present", Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that fiery talk could only lead to misunderstandings and asserted that the only solution to the crisis was political, a spokesman said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'N. Korea warns of strikes, accuses US of declaring war'. Subscribe